Five things we learnt at Further Education Zone Conference

Wednesday 28-10-2015 - 12:21

NUS’ Zone Conferences kicked off yesterday with students and staff from the movement arriving in Bradford for a week of debates, discussions and democratic elections which will steer and shape the policy of NUS’ five Zones over the coming year.

The annual gathering - the second largest democratic event in the UK after our own National Conference - is being hosted in the city of Bradford for first time and began with a focus on our Further Education and Higher Education Zones.

Zone Conferences are a crucial part of the policy formation process and are an important milestone on the road to National Conference. Each Zone is based around a ‘key theme’ allowing a space for students’ unions to really shape NUS’ responses to the challenges each zone faces.

Here are five things we learnt during Further Education Zone Conference…

1. FE = free education, further education, for everyone.

During the first day of FE Zone Conference there was a rousing chant from our FE members during Shakira Martin’s opening speech, who described the zone as being ‘about creating leaders and taking the campaign forward’.

2. Area Reviews leave a lot to review…

Most people have concerns about specialised colleges, students raised points around access to education and education providers.

It was noted that there was clarity needed over accessibility needs for visually impaired people. If colleges are delivering courses specifically with educational needs, how are we going to make sure these stay accessible when colleges merge?

Travel was another concern regarding Area Reviews - infrastructure needs improving and so does financial support for students travel.

3. Prisoner Education is empowering.

Prisoner education builds confidence and boosts self-esteem and supports prisoners to be able to get into work once they leave the prison. We should be ensuring that once a prisoner is enrolled on a course, they should be able to complete it - regardless of whether they move prison or not.

4. The huge reforms to qualifications and quality are moving FE further towards meeting the needs of employers.

The challenge facing providers in delivering GCSE English and maths in ten months to those who don’t have a grade C after 11 years of school is failing both learners and employers.

5. Free Education

Fees, funding and support for students in FE is much more complex and varied than funding in HE. Adult learners should be able to achieve a free level three qualification as a very minimum and ITC education should be given as much importance as English and maths if we truly want to support adult learners.

Our FE and HE Zone Conferences concluded today, with the closing day featuring the elections for both the FE and HE Zone Committees. This afternoon sees more delegates arrive for the Union Development Zone Conference before our final two zones; Welfare and Society and Citizenship begin on Thursday 29 October.   

Not in Bradford for Zone Conference? Follow the action on social media using the hashtag #NUSzones15



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